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October 1, 2014

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Education Summit Questions Value of High-Stakes Testing

A group of educational leaders and innovative thinkers gathered in New York September 19 to discuss the value of high-stakes testing, trends in education, and the role of technology in learning.

McGraw Panel 1 Education Summit Questions Value of High Stakes TestingJohn Merrow, an education reporter for PBS’s NewsHour and president of Learning Matters, a nonprofit production company focused on education, moderated the symposium, “Education: The Next 25 Years, The Next 25 Minutes,” which was sponsored by the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.

In his opening remarks, Lloyd Waterhouse, president and CEO of McGraw Hill Education, stressed the importance of education, stating that lifetime earnings in 2011 were nearly three times higher for someone with a college degree than someone with a high school diploma.

Talk of the Chicago public school strike, which ended on Tuesday, led to a discussion about the flawed nature of standardized testing and the negative perception of teachers. Though all panelists agreed that testing student achievement is important, they added that teaching to the test can be problematic. Sal Khan, founder and executive director of Khan Academy, a nonprofit online organization that provides free, high-quality education, said he observed middle school students in an Oakland, CA, math class who lacked basic algebra skills, and whose teacher was too busy prepping students to pass their standardized tests to address these problems. Jeff Livingston, senior vice president of College and Career Readiness at McGraw-Hill Education, also pointed out that passing these tests is even more vital for low-income students because they’re faced with yet another barrier to escaping poverty.

Meanwhile, Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland in Baltimore, talked about the importance of giving teachers enough support and guidance. He attributed poor student performance in math and science to teachers who also lack a solid education. He emphasized that educators must not only master their subject areas, but also be equipped to address the needs of students with challenging backgrounds or who lack motivation. Hrabowski also encouraged giving high-performing teachers incentives to continue doing well, much like university professors.

Livingston also said it was easy to blame teachers for the poor quality of education that children receive, a problem that often stems from an understandable fear that an inadequate education will result in a decreased quality of life for their children. Yvonne Chan, principal of Vaughn Next Century Learning Center Chan, a charter school that serves 3,000 students in Los Angeles, stressed the need to “enlarge the circle of responsibility,” rather than simply holding schools accountable for student achievement. Above all, panelists highlighted the importance of building communities for the benefit of both students and educators.

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar (mdar@mediasourceinc.com) is an Associate Editor for School Library Journal, and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.

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  1. There is a debate, though never will be quite sure, as to when Vlad was actually born. Most scholars put the event at either November or December of 1431 in the Transylvanian town of Sighisoara. The very town house in which he was born still stands and is a popular tourist spot. His father, VladDracul, was in exile at this time. The area that the house stands in was, at that time, in a very selective neighbourhood, surrounded by Saxon and Magyar merchants and nobility. Had they known their future and the suffering this new born babe was to put them through in later life, I feel extremely doubtful that he would have seen his first birthday.

  2. We know extremely little of Vlad’s early childhood. We do know that he had an elder brother, Mircea and younger one, Radu the Handsome. It was his mother, a noblewoman of Transylvania who saw to his early education, reading, writing, music and the arts and court etiquette. But his real education, that of knighthood, began in 1436, after his father had deposed and killed the Danesti prince and took the throne. His tutor, the man who taught him the art of warfare and peace, was an old and seasoned soldier and Boyar who had fought against the Turks at the Battle of Nicolopolis. Often he would regale the young prince with his military tales and adventures as he forged his charge into a Christian Knight.